Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More Than a Bird's-Eye View - GeoEye's Matt O'Connell Featured in New York Times Article

In 1976, I enrolled in law school at the University of Virginia. After graduating, I joined a Wall Street law firm and focused on mergers and acquisitions for entrepreneurs and media companies. That led to working for Cablevision as assistant general counsel, which was like graduate school for innovators. Then I worked as a lawyer in radio and TV operations.

Business and finance seemed more fun than law, so I left for a job as managing director at Crest Communications Holdings, a private equity company that invested in and advised communications companies. Crest had invested in Orbimage, a subsidiary of Orbital Sciences and the precursor of GeoEye.

In 2001, Orbimage lost a satellite when a rocket failed at launch, and the rocket and satellite crashed into the Indian Ocean. The company stood to lose millions in potential business.

I had helped troubled companies for Crest before, so it decided I should travel to Orbimage headquarters in Virginia and hire a new C.E.O. It was to be a two-month assignment, but I couldn't find anyone who wanted the job. Though I had a home in New York, I ended up living at a Holiday Inn near Dulles International Airport for four years while I stepped into the position.

We filed for bankruptcy the next year, cut costs, listened closely to customers' needs and emerged from bankruptcy in January 2004. Nine months later, we won a huge contract from the federal government; we were selected over three larger companies that had formed a syndicate to try to win the contract. Two years later, we acquired their joint venture and changed our name to GeoEye.

GeoEye images were used to help evacuate people from Haiti after the earthquake two years ago. Last spring, when Libyan officials made the press leave during the uprising there, we were able to continue visual coverage from the air.

We also assisted in military intelligence-gathering in Iraq and Afghanistan and provided analytics to United States ground operations for other, classified military and intelligence efforts. In 2010, we bought a company that adds demographics and information from a Web search to satellite images, which means we can predict where events may occur...

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